USGS publishes a number of "Unanswered questions" on its website
[url]USGS.gov/pubs [/url]. we can go to the DYNAMIC EARTH batch and understand the history AND FOLLOWUPS as to how we utilize Plate Tectonics in so many ways and applications.
One of the areas Ive always had an interest in is petroleum (obviously). Weve known that petroleum formation , migration, and pooling (traps) require a certain amount of heat. The Epsteins (in the earliest days of Plate Tectonic theory, this husband and wife team learned to measure the temperature gradients that were conducive to "cooking and forming petroleum out of seal life goo). They were able to develop a temperature scale based on the colors seen in things like fossil shells and foraminiferans.
When PT became a more mature science, the reason for the "cooking became better understood as resulting from sub sesimentary thermal gradients (That is, the goo was cookd by just the right amount of heat from below
Too much heat and you have tar and just black shales,
too little and its just a class in organic chemistry and microbiology. (the applied science of formulating waxes, soaps, and polymers)
Plate Tectonics became a useful guide-on tool to let us know, in a sea floor spreading plate , where to do initial test drilling.
The USGS began publishing thermal gradient information . These, coupled with several other tricks , gave us really top notch dta on how to better locate hydrocarbons. SInce almost all hydrocarbons are the result of marine micro organisms (animals like micro cephalopods, forams, mollusca, gastropods etc etc) NOT DINOSAURS like those shown on 1940's ads and billboards. SO, starting investigations on ancient nd recent marine depoits of organisms, at specific depths (chosen by EPsteins methods) and migrating and emplaced wrt specific plate boundaries, weve been able to increase our success accuracy to the high 90%.
What used to be called "wildcatting" is now a mature pussy science, all because students pay attention in class and learn tricks of the trade that they can apply when its thir turns to test whether this stuff they lernt wasnt bullshit as some people seem to believe.
We can always test our beliefs and evidence using the falsification tricks. As a result of having done so, our gas availability is no longer on a scare "peak petroleum curve". We appear to have enough available petroleum to get us out of a fossil fuel economy and into a renewable energy economy (as long as we dont dick aroun and listen to science deniers who tell us that we should mine and burn more coal )
Plate Tectonics has been a major contributor to ways in which we hve been reshaping our energy thinking. All we hve left to do is understand the facts and plan wisely for our future